Swiss Grand Award for the Performing Arts / Hans Reinhart Ring 2021

Martin Zimmermann - Entete
© BAK / Charlotte Krieger

Martin Zimmermann

Quirky stage worlds

Swiss Grand Award for the Performing Arts / Hans Reinhart Ring 2021

Martin Zimmermann was born in the canton of Zurich in 1970. Now based in the city, he has been inventing, choreographing and staging visual theatre that more or less defies categorisation for more than 20 years. After an apprenticeship as a decorator in Zurich, he completed his training at the Centre National des Arts du Cirque (CNAC) in Paris in 1995. He toured the globe for three years with his diploma piece, before returning to Switzerland in 1998 after eight years in France. Since then, he has been enthralling a wide audience as a choreographer, director, stage designer and clown, initially in the trio Metzger/Zimmermann/de Perrot, then in the duo Zimmermann & de Perrot and, for the last few years, on his own. Three of his stage designs, developed together with Dimitri de Perrot, have already received a Swiss Design Award from the Federal Office of Culture on three occasions, in 2008, 2010 and 2011. The duo received an innovation award from KTV ATP (now the Swiss theatre professionals’ association t.) in 2008 and was followed in 2009 by the Swiss Dance and Choreography Prize, then in 2010 by the culture promotion award from the Canton of Zurich and, in 2013, a prize from the Foundation Heinz Spoerli. Martin Zimmermann is currently an associated artist at Maison de la Culture de Bourges / Scène Nationale and at the Tanzhaus Zürich.

Already with the earliest successes “Gopf” (1999), “Hoi” (2001), “Janei” (2004) as well as “Öper Öpis” (2008), together with the co-authors, or with his solo works “Hallo” (2014), “Der Besucher” (2016) or “Eins Zwei Drei” (2018), Martin Zimmermann created a visual style previously unknown in Switzerland: a visual and physical theatre without words that mixes circus, dance and theatre with spectacular stage installations. His creations are performed at well-known theatres and performing arts festivals worldwide, at venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York, Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Hong Kong City Hall, KVS in Brussels, Fondation Beyeler in Basel, the Zurich Theater Spektakel and Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne. Humour, magic and absurdity are the hallmarks of Martin Zimmermann’s artistic output. He fashions quirky stage worlds that serve as a setting for his figures and bizarre objects. When not performing himself, he makes his dancers, actors and virtuoso artists into accomplices in his tragicomic universe. Many of his works, such as “Eins Zwei Drei” (2018), which deals with power struggles within a trio of clowns, or “Goodbye Johnyy” (2020), which features a marginal character, are still touring. “Danse Macabre” (2021) received its première in August at the Zurich Theater Spektakel. For the opening of the Steps dance festival in spring 2022, Martin Zimmermann is teaming up with Kinsun Chan and the Tanzkompanie am Theater St. Gallen to create “Wonderful World”.

Martin Zimmermann is a talented figure. His incomparable way of “staging” is difficult to categorise: he unquestionably has the capacity to permeate the various artistic disciplines of physical theatre, dance, circus and scenic installation with imagination and precision, and engage them in dialogue. His works deal with human sensibility, contradictions, weaknesses, fragility and violence. The multi-layered complexity of interwoven human relationships is wittily and absurdly derailed and de-dramatised, giving the audience a different vision of dialogue and reflection. He says: “In my work, bodies have material properties and objects a human dimension.” That combination opens up manifold potentials. Martin Zimmermann’s works are like kaleidoscopic images, in which multiple forms are created from a single beam of light.

Guillaume Guilherme, Chair of the Dance Jury
Nunzia Tirelli, jury member